If Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) wins, legal age may be pared to 18

The number of adults in the nation might suddenly jump if the Democratic Party of Japan comes to power in the Aug. 30 general election, as DPJ members said Friday they may try to lower the age of majority from 20 to 18.

The party also plans to seek a lifting of the ban on election campaigning over the Internet.

The age change, which could come as early as May, would swell the ranks of eligible voters. It would also mean people could marry without their parents’ permission two years earlier than is currently permitted.

The change will probably be part of the main opposition party’s policy platform for the House of Representatives election, and be pursued through legislative steps in the extra Diet session to convene after the poll, the members said.

While the Liberal Democratic Party is reluctant to lower the voting age, believing it would work to its rival’s advantage, the DPJ has yet to prove it can attract younger voters.

A Kyodo News poll conducted earlier this month revealed that only 10 percent of respondents in their 20s backed the DPJ, while 33 percent supported the LDP.

The DPJ aims to submit to the Diet session in the fall bills to revise the Civil Code, the Public Offices Election Law and other related laws to lower the age of adulthood at the same time the national referendum law takes effect next May. This would give people aged 18 and over the right to vote in the event a referendum is held on revising the Constitution, DPJ officials said.

The DPJ will also call for lifting the ban on campaigning via the Internet and the introduction of touch-screen electronic voting, according to the party members.

On fiscal policy, the DPJ has said it will slash tax deductions for dependents and spouses and instead increase child care support, which was harshly criticized by the LDP.

The party would also consolidate policymaking powers around the prime minister by setting up a national strategy bureau under him to oversee budget compilations and foreign policy, while creating a new body to scrap wasteful government projects, according to party sources.

The strategy bureau, which would consist of government officials and private-sector experts handpicked by the prime minister, would replace the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, currently the government’s key panel making medium- to long-term fiscal policies, the sources said.

The DPJ-led government would also create what would be called the council on administrative renovation to review central government projects, many of which are often criticized as containing too much fat.

The new panel would be given the authority to require ministries and agencies to provide information on projects, including those undertaken by quasi-governmental corporations, the sources said.

If the panel determined that money would be better spent by abolishing projects or transferring them to local governments or the private sector, it would freeze them even in the middle of a business year.

The strategy bureau would serve to carry out the DPJ’s pet projects, including allowances to families with children and abolishing tolls for the nation’s expressways, and would also formulate basic foreign policy, the sources said.

The DPJ would also plan to send more than 100 of its lawmakers to ministries and agencies so they can take initiatives in setting policies there.

To overhaul public works projects, the DPJ also eyes ending the construction of two controversial dam projects — the so-called Yamba dam in Gunma Prefecture and a dam on the Kawabe River in Kumamoto Prefecture — through special legislation.

In a related move, the DPJ released a set of policies Thursday in which it dropped all references to the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Indian Ocean refueling mission in support of forces fighting terrorism in and around Afghanistan.

The deletion has left it vague whether the party would oppose the mission’s extension beyond January, as it had been against the deployment.

The DPJ will now also accept the MSDF antipiracy mission off Somalia.

The policy basket the DPJ aired suggests the party’s readiness to be flexible in foreign policy, including the possible continuation of the current approach pursued by the government of Prime Minister Taro Aso, as the party eyes ousting his LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc from power.

“It is beyond my understanding that this party, which has opposed (the MSDF mission) so strongly, has changed its stance shortly before the election,” Aso said Thursday.



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